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Will Cider's Popularity in Wales Lead to Greater MUP Impact?
In May 2018, the Scottish Government took the bold step of introducing a minimum unit price (MUP) of 50p per unit of alcohol on alcoholic products. MUP was an effort to curb binge drinking and the societal issues that high-strength, cheap alcohol contributed to in Scotland. MUP did achieve some change in sales of strong ciders, but we’ve reported little impact overall. In fact, in the convenience sector, our data suggests that MUP has led to a boost in alcohol sales overall, driven by:
  • Normalised pricing between budget and premium brands. Especially seen between Glen’s and Smirnoff vodka.
  • Supermarkets have lost their ability to price more competitively than c-stores, creating a more level playing field.
  • Greater revenue opportunities in Alcohol in Scotland, leading to investment in the category and experiences such as beer caves and taste cards.

Wales will introduce the same minimum unit price on Alcohol on March 2nd, 2020. It is notable, however, that Cider is a more popular product in Wales than in Scotland in terms of total market share. Cider enjoys a higher market share in Wales than in any other part of the UK.

UK Mainland Cider Market Share - 2019

England 13.6% Scotland 9.4% Wales 17.1%

It has also seen growth in Wales in the past two years, up by almost 2%. The question is, will this greater dependence on Cider in Wales lead to a more profound MUP impact? We believe it will, but c-store retailers stand to benefit from the change anyway. Here are three reasons why.

1. The Welsh are lovers of Lager & Spirits

In January 2020, Wales’ Top Ten selling alcohol products list, available for free here, was dominated by Lager products. Eight of the Ten products listed were Lager. Interestingly, brand loyalty also appears in strong in Wales, as three Lager brands made up the entirety of the list. These were Carling, Stella Artois and Fosters.

Beer (in which Lager is a subcategory) is likely to remain the strongest alcohol subcategory in Wales. It enjoys 35% market share and experienced the highest growth of any alcohol subcategory of over 2.1%. None of the beer products that appear in the Top Ten list are likely to be affected by MUP as their prices are typically already compliant.

The more interesting story resides in Spirits, which saw dramatic shifts when MUP first came into effect in Scotland. Previous research carried out by The Retail Data Partnership (TRDP) identified customers switching to premium brands as the prices of budget brands increased. This was especially noticeable in Vodka. Where’s Glen’s lost substantial market share to Smirnoff as a result of a new, similar price point with no change in quality or brand appeal. As both non-beer products in the Top Ten list are Vodkas at varying price points, we will be watching to see what changes in Welsh Vodka sales in the coming months.
Alcohol Top Sellers - Wales January 2020 Average Value Sales Per Store
1. Carling £230.49
2. Stella Artois Pm4/649 £174.78
3. Chekov Vodka Pm679 £166.54
4. Stella Artois 4.8% £159.91
5. Stella Artois Pm4/579 £149.87
6. Carling Pm4/489 £141.76
7. Carling Pm4/549 £137.52
8. Fosters Pm1000 £135.5
9. Fosters Pm4/550 £130.54
10. Smirnoff Red Pm1479 £127.24

2. High strength cider is popular, but cider is less popular than other subcategories

Did you know the top selling cider product in Wales is Omega White Cider 500ml - PM99? In fact, half of the top ten selling cider products in Wales throughout the past year have been high strength ciders, all of which feature non-compliant MUP pricing. This may suggest that the impact to the category will be devastating. We disagree. We found that in Scotland, while sales of high strength ciders were negatively impacted, the increased price and positive impact in other subcategories was enough to generate overall category growth. Our lesson, if you're relying on high-strength cider sales, consider investing in lower-strength cider for the loyal and beer for its dominating market share in Wales of 35%. Scotland Market Share including cider

3. Effort has a big impact

This is less of a data driven point but more of an observation over the past two years. As the price advantage that supermarkets hold is wiped out, shoppers start to make choices based on different criteria. Obviously, convenience stores are convenient, the clue in the name but is this enough? The discounters especially have tailored their entire approach toward efficiency, creating an experience that rivals some stores in terms of speed but with a far larger range.

cider chiller

Our advice, if you want to get the most out of the changes coming is to consider your shoppers and what experiences would most resonate with them. For example, if you experience high tourist traffic then local products will give you a unique edge that the one-size-fits-all supermarket approach can't match. Keeping beer chilled is also a great approach as most supermarkets store their alcohol at room temperature, making the product less convenient to consume soon after purchase. Chillers (and beer caves, if you want to go crazy) can turn alcohol from a planned purchase into an impulse.

We're here to support you

If you're a ShopMate EPoS customer, we've put together some tools to help you keep on top of your MUP compliance obligations including price checks at the time of transaction and a minimum suggested legal price displayed on alcohol products. We've even put together a Frequently Asked Questions section and we will also be regularly analysing the impact of MUP in Wales to provide actionable insights to help you make decisions for your business.
MUP Minimum Legal Price Cider
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